Skip to content Skip to main navigation Report an accessibility issue

Rods, Reels, and Rivers

Growing up a stone’s throw from the Holston River, Jonah Duran spent many of his days making the short walk to the water with his canoe and exploring the river. But it wasn’t until three years ago, when he inherited some of his fiancée’s father’s rods and reels, that he decided to get serious about getting on the water to catch fish.

“I started with baitcasters and spinning reels for bass and bluegill,” says Duran, a nuclear engineering PhD candidate who earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from UT in 2015 and 2017.

Then one afternoon while fishing from his kayak on the Clinch River, he met a local guide who gave him advice about how to hook into more and bigger fish. He was going to have to learn to fly fish.

Duran went to a local fly shop, 3 Rivers Angler, for free casting lessons and attended a free fly-tying night at Little River Outfitters in Townsend. “I loved it,” he says. “It was a lot of fun.”

Looking to get more involved in the fly fishing community, he attended a meeting of the Great Smoky Mountain chapter of Trout Unlimited, a national organization that focuses on conservation of freshwater ecosystems and habitats for trout, salmon, and other fish species. The chapter president, John Reinhardt, told him about Vols on the Fly, a UT student organization that had been dormant for the past few years after all its leaders had graduated.

“He tapped me to get this thing going again,” Duran says. “Sure, why not? If I’m going to get into fly fishing, I might as well go all in.”

You can read the full story about Jonah Duran on UT’s Volunteer Stories page at